The Sin Of Being An Over-qualified Woman In India

Posted on October 24, 2011 in Society

By Ms. P. Alli:

I made a grave mistake… Is it our bad fate?… What sin have I committed? Mein apne biradri ke kissi bhi shadi mein nahin ja sakti… (I cannot attend any marriage function in our fraternity) grumbles Mrs. Natarajan, every minute and every day. And the reason for her lamenting is not strange, but a harsh reality that is taking place in every middle-class household. Day in and day out, Mr. Natarajan, a retired central government employee and a proud father of three well-cultured, disciplined and intellectual kids rushes to the nearest ‘thirumana mayam’ (marriage bureau in Tamil) to collect the ‘jadagams’ (horoscopes) of some grooms for their eldest daughter.

Every time — either the horoscopes do not match with their daughter’s horoscopes or the groom’s family puts forward a proposal that makes Mr. and Mrs. Natarajan bow their head down in despair. And the harsh proposal — “Ask your daughter to resign from the job, since the position (a doctoral degree and holding a gazetted rank) that she is holding is of high esteem which will lead to a BIG FAT EGO problem within the family. Moreover, a girl should not be holding a higher post than her husband… she is supposed to be only “a graduate” so as to accompany her hubby to some social gatherings”. In the initial years of their hunt for a perfect groom (perfect in terms of designation and qualification) Mr. and Mrs. Natarajan were bold enough in challenging the society’s rude demands and gave a befitting reply to such speakers.

As years rolled by, their hunt continued but in vain. Society began to look upon them as if they have failed in their duty. They have reduced their visit to social gatherings, so as to avoid an array of questions from the narrow minded people. Not that they cannot reply, but that their replies will in no way make them understand the pain and the tireless efforts that they have taken in making their children attain such greater heights. The suggestion that most of them give is “Do not wait for the person to be of perfect match, marry off your daughters to anyone who comes, no matter whether he is under-qualified, otherwise she will have to bear the consequence of being a virgin throughout their life”. These harsh words initially make them furious, but later they do succumb to their suggestions. All these remarks make them think, “We should not have allowed our daughters pursue higher studies and go after their dreams. We should have stopped them at the graduation level. I will advice all of my relatives not to make their daughters aspire more nor to allow them to go for higher studies. Otherwise they too will have to face the same miserable consequence that we are facing today”. Whenever, the daughters come on vacation, the parents start grumbling, which makes them wonder why they gave them the opportunity to study, in the first place. And if they did, why do they crib now? It is not their fault that they are at a higher position. The tired Mr. and Mrs. Natarajan do not have any answers to these questions, for they do know that their daughters have not erred (or have they?).

Is this the cost that a woman has to bear for being highly qualified? One should bear it in mind that we are still in such a society which considers the parents of unmarried girls as the ‘sin-makers’. Did Mr. and Mrs. Natarajan commit a grave mistake in allowing their daughters pursue higher studies?

What do you think?

The writer is a Research Investigator, Department of Economics and Rural Development, Alagappa University.